[musing, fbc] Thoughts on Life, Bowl

I was in a thoughtful mood, and had some fun realizations about how to be myself boldly, and they make me want to dwell in life instead of in the realizations, but I’ll write them if anyone’s curious.

I’ve been coming up with some modifications to the Rocky bowl game. We’ve been playing it a lot recently, and I hope we play some other games, but when we do play it next, I want to try a few changes We don’t have to stick with all of them, but let’s try them all out. Here are my mods:

1. For every slip you remove, you have to put a new one in (in between turns). It doesn’t have to be unique (there are never too few “kiss someone” slips), but it shouldn’t be the same thing every time.

2. Moreover, your slips should generally become more extreme with time. “Kiss” might shift to “make out” might shift to “tie down”. Not a rule, but an expectation.

3. We add a new kind of slip called “Rule”. These are like rules in 3-man: any time you kiss you have to take off your shirt; any time anyone says “if” they have to drink.

4. Slips that involve drinking and similar are allowed. If you aren’t partaking, it becomes a general dare to be chosen by the people who are partaking.

[musing, experiments, games] Anyone want to Merge?

I should know better than to read existentialism before bed. I’ve been thinking recently about the problem of individuality. I’m convinced that different people experience the world in vastly different ways, but we’re doomed to spend our lives as just one mind and body.

There’s a maxim that you don’t get to join any group; only groups with you then in them. Every relationship (friendship, chance meeting) you have is irreparably marked by you, to the point that you can never know anyone the way someone else would. Every sensation, idea, and understanding you have is forever bound by the deepest quirks of your psychology. The most essential aspects of our selves are forever hidden from us because they’re built into the foundations of how we experience our lives. We’re forced to infer the basics of who we are by seeing how people react to us and who they react similarly to, and what those people are like.

Two weeks ago I was tearing my hair out thinking that what I found myself to be was so different from what I thought I was, but I decided that the situation is not as bad as I thought. As an intellectual, a kind of friend, and a citizen of the world, I’m pleased with what I am. But as a social creature? A source of creativity? A man? I see in my place a shallow husk of the creature I meant to be and it makes me sad.

So does anyone want to temporarily merge consciousness with me, so I know what it’s like to be you (and you, me)? I’ve read some experiments that suggest it’s possible, but I need a willing victim co-participant.

And a follow-up from my game post: I now have an extended description and the first steps. The game is filling up, but I can still handle more people.

[salon] Salon Discussion, November 21

Disclaimer: I hold a regular Salon discussion group, with wide-ranging conversations on politics, philosophy, society, and life. I’ve decided to start using Salon discussions as the subject of some LJ posts, as a way to propagate and record the ideas. I make no claims to these ideas– they arose out of the dialogue– nor do I claim that they’re an accurate reflection of the dialogue. A good Salon discussion is like a rich tapestry: you can tell many different stories by following different threads. This is just a smattering of what came up.

Society is currently undergoing a vast “exploding out” of ideas, cultures, and technologies. This isn’t new– it’s characteristic of modern society, maybe even reaching back to the Renaissance. But it is pervasive and getting faster by the year. It’s even built our notions of progress and creativity. If creativity ever meant simply the creative process, it’s long since come to mean the inventive process. Progress in art, science, and philosophy is understood as the creation of new, previously unknown constructs.

As society spirals out, specializing and extremifying, and its various branches create language and cultures of their own, it seems inevitable that the common bonds that hold society together will become more tenuous and strained. These branches release new technologies and ideas into the world at a future-shocking speed, changing the ways we live, work, and think, and leaving us forever reeling from the effects. One has to worry if this ever-quickening explosion will end in an enormous catastrophe, or a singularity of multiplicity and change.

But maybe this chaos reflects a necessary and temporary process as civilization adjusts to recent changes in technology. We are in the midst of a society-wide paradigm shift. Like the big-bang-bust cosmological question, the exploding out could tear society apart, or it could just rip out some old stitching allowing society to fall into a new configuration. Western civilization is searching for a new foundation: a societal world view or foundational paradigm or Weltanschauung that we’ve been missing since the fall of Newtonian mechanics.

We now know that the world, of which we are part, is a dizzying mesh of complex and chaotic mutually-causal systems and based on inherent uncertainty and unknowability. There is no room for personal free will (unless it’s to be found in quantum probability functions) or a soul that exists outside natural laws (unless it is a powerless observer). If there are gods, our best chance to meet them is heavy drug use. Our senses and psychology are so self-absorbed that we can only guess at the nature of reality. Purpose, morality, and meaning are only possible as a personal temporary suspension of disbelief. These are difficult (and disputed) ideas that we have yet to come to terms with.

The past hundred years hasn’t managed to find a way out by exploring any of the hallways of the mansion of Western civilization through the project of post-modernism in art, literature, philosophy, and science. But recent world developments might soon force us to confront other civilizations fundamental paradigms. Western civilization can no longer act like the only kid in the world’s playground, and that might save us from our own failings.

Traditional eastern philosophy holds a very different conception of the universe, and one that might handle the paradoxless dilemmas of contemporary thought better. At the discussion, we might have pulled out a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, but we like to find our own way, especially if its an opportunity to create a new paradigm for use by the whole of civilization. We tried to resolve the paradox in eastern philosophy that individuals should escape the misery of life by realizing that both they and the world they live in don’t exist, and came up with a few interesting possibilities.

What if individuals are distinct from collective reality in the way that waves are distinct from the ocean? We experience life as individuals because we are bundled knots in a collective experiencer, like eddy currents that divide themselves off from a large river. We are unruly collections of neurons in a Great Mind. Enlightenment is a kind of merging back into the collective consciousness.

Specifically, paradigms– the structures that allow us to understand our universe– are the walls that bind off these individual knots. The Salon ended with a long discussion about the mindsets instilled in the business world, the paradigms of economics and corporations, and how they could be re-written to better suit concerned individuals.

Be a Fictional Character!

I just saw Stranger than Fiction, which is a totally squeal-worthy movie. And it gave me a great idea for a game.

Here’s the invitation: Join me in creating a fictional character in a real-time story of our collective design. Let us, in the words of Speed Levich, be “the authors of ourselves, co-authoring a gigantic Dostoevsky novel, starring clowns.” You create your character: no magical powers or endless wealth, but you can have a checkered background, vocational skills, and social connections. You can even be yourself. I will manage the world, ensuring that you all have dilemmas to juggle and that your actions effect the other characters, and I will publish a public narrative. At least one of you will die. At least one of you will reap good fortune at another’s expense. At least one of your plots will break the third wall. How do you join? Reply to the post and I’ll give you instructions.

And you should all see Stranger than Fiction. The central idea is sublime and the movie’s explorations of that idea’s textures are more than enough to make the sappy romance plot palpable. Ultimately, I think the movie’s reach exceeded its grasp (I can’t say how without spoiling), but not before leaving me panting and sated. And only yesterday I had long discussion on the self-referencial nature of post-modernism and the effect of existentialism’s maxim that “the meaning of life is the living of it” on contemporary society. Uncanny.

[games] One Toy, Slightly Buggy

Holiday quiet on these street, except for some stubborn leaves
That didn’t fall with the fall, now they clatter in vain.

Curse the god of projects that drove me through pouring rain to blast Carbon Leaf over an empty ESG’s speakers and code until my socks dry! But I did finish my toy:

It’s a webcrawling collage-maker. Starting from a webpage, it will follow links and paste the images into a composite. For each collage, it keeps a fair-sized catalog of webpages to look at (from its explorations), and anyone can add to that catalog, “nudging” it in different directions.

I started ones for MIT, the SCA, FBC, and Flickr photos. There’s also a tool for making your own (size-limited for now).

The process of making it web-accessible left it buggy, but for a while it looked like my shared host had made it totally impossible, so I’ll take what I can get.

Vacation Mode

I sent my laptop, which has been slowly degenerating, off to Dell yesterday for repairs. It’s under warranty, but that was void as soon as they heard the casing was cracked, and they charged me a round-trip-to-Paris-equivalent to get it fixed. It’s only money, but I’m bummed.

But the cloud has a copper-lining. I make my livelihood off my laptop and I can’t do one of my client’s work without it (and for the other client, I’m working from ESG), which means– for the next business week– I’m on half-vacation! It’s amazing what a beautiful excuse a crutch is. I usually don’t even take holidays or weekends totally off, but I think I’ll live up my pseudo-vacation time a little.

Yesterday, my first book of Transmetropolitan which jducoeur recommended to me as “Science-fiction without any wonder.” Any other time, I wouldn’t have let myself finish it in less than a week, but last night I would have read the whole series if I’d had it. Plus, I’m going to finish a toy I made a while back and let you all play with it (bug me if I don’t). And if anyone has an adventure that wants more cohorts, look me up.

Trixie, Thoughts, and Concert

luvrentboy spent a long time helping me choreograph my Trixie [intro (often striptease) song to RHPS], and I’m really looking forward to it! After I’ve got it down better, ask me if you want to see it and give me some comments. I can do a totally mystery trixie next time; this time I’ll settle for a good one.

I’ve decided that social games are lots of fun. I’m fairly clumsy at them, but throwing something into the social pool is more interesting than waiting to throw the right thing in, and the best kind of challenge.

I have a new mess of fudgely thoughts, but I think I’ll keep them to myself. It’s one of those maybe-realization about oneself that’s both disgusting and typical and I don’t want to know how much of each. But it makes me admire the many wonderful qualities of my friends, and I wonder if I’ll ever be as fine.

Medeski, Schofield, Martin, and Wood are playing in Providence tomorrow (Wednesday)! MMW and John Schofield, individually, are the gods of experimental jazz, and seeing them play together would be incredible. Want to come? Tickets are $25, if we can get them (pre-sale is closed); if we can’t, we’ll enjoy Providence.

[life, philo] Games and Living

Preamble: I’ve felt recently like I’m waiting for the other shoe to fall, even if I don’t know when the first did. Life is good, but it’s a bit too easy– overfull but not overwhelming– and its joys too short-lived (like they keep grinding to a halt). So I yanked at my subconscious to tell me what was up, and here’s what it gave me (plus it promised me something better by Monday).

Behind the cut are some thinks on the nature and usefulness of social games, and how they relate to how one should live. This sort of post feels awfully self-indulgent, since it comes from where I personally am, but I don’t mean it to be: I don’t care if anyone reads it, but if anyone finds it useful or resonates with it or wants to engage in a little philosophical dialogue on the subject, I’d love to hear.

Various Thinks on Games and Living

[FBC] The Social Guide to Rocky Project

It’s strange to think that there are residents of the greater-Cambridge area who don’t understand basic mailing list rules of behavior. But it’s no surprise that Rocky newbies are forever shooting their feet: Rocky has one of the most sophisticated set of social rules and hazing mechanisms I’ve ever encountered. I consider myself a fairly observant fellow, and I’m still learning unspoken expectations.

I keep wanting to write them all down. Gary is compiling an official rule guide– what about having an underground one? I’m imaging sections on communication (email conventions, elvis, list abuse, good ways to criticize), Rocky parties (expectations, yellow, fives, rules to common games, how to start/join an orgy), illicit activities (participating and avoiding), traditions, and the unofficial social roles of people in the cast.

But maybe recording it would do unwarranted abuse to an already well-functioning and ever-fluid system. I come from a world where people consume friend-making algorithms, social technologies, and relationship guides like candy, because what is obvious to some people is a bizarre mystery to others.

Would anyone find this useful? (Finding it useful for someone else doesn’t count.)

[pol] Coup d’etat!

What a exciting night! We broke open the champagne/sparkling cider around 11 and friends were over here crunching the numbers almost until sunrise. Nothing had changed by the time I woke up this afternoon, but by the time I got out of the shower, Montana was called for the Democrats and the breaking news was Bush’s announcement of Rumsfeld’s resignation.

This is the most exciting election I’ve ever experienced, and there were *so* many close races. I have a map full of pins that we updated throughout the night– every pin represents a seat switching to Democrat (we have yet to need the other colors). After despite early reports of lots of voting irregularities, the political world is suddenly a very different place. The Democrats have the House, and I think they’ll control the Senate too. Rumsfeld is out. Massachusetts has a democratic governor. There’s going to be a female speaker of the House. And there’s a socialist in congress.

The sky holds some ominous clouds too, though. For all of these steps, the big issues are still rattling the flood gates: No one wants to discuss peak oil, global warming, nuclear proliferation, globalized labor competition, or the industrial-military complex. (Though we do have some solutions: Get your copy of WorldChanging!) The remaining Republicans in congress are on average more conservative, and the Democrats want to draw the conclusion from their own success that they should run more conservative candidates. And both parties seem to buy the macroeconomic evidence that our economy is strong despite the squeeze on the middle and lower classes, reflected in referendums across the country.

I’m beaming today (or would be if I weren’t sick), but the revolution is just begun.